Review Summary: Grabbing progress by the throat
Darkest Hour has been a band trending seriously downward since the release of 2007’s Deliver Us.
The culmination of ten years of rising in the ranks, perfecting a potent blend of melodic death metal and metalcore, Deliver Us
was Darkest Hour firing on all cylinders. Spacey, bright production, indelible melodic riffs, and killer solos, Deliver Us
sounded inspired, it sounded fresh, and it cemented Darkest Hour as one of the best metalcore bands of their era. Unfortunately the success would not last, as lead guitarist Kris Norris left in ‘09 and Darkest Hour went on to release two records - The Eternal Return
and The Human Romance,
which while more aggressive than the past two records, were ultimately watered down versions of a sound that had already been perfected. Both records had their fair share of decent riffs and impressive solos, but they felt hollow, there was something missing, and that something was Kris Norris. Then the band lost their drummer and bassist, and the downward spiral culminated with the release of a poppy, dumbed-down self titled album which featured Darkest Hour abandoning what little progress they had made over the last two albums. Uninspired clean vocals, limp riffs, and a godawful guitar tone made for a mess of an album that barely even sounded like the same band that wrote “A Paradox With Flies.” The album received poor reception, it failed to match the intensity of past records, and so it seemed like a good time for Darkest Hour to hang up their hats. But Darkest Hour didn’t break up, instead they took their time writing new material, got Kris Norris involved, and crowdfunded the recording of a new album. I was very hesitant to hear a new crowdfunded Darkest Hour album considering the band had just recently hit rock bottom, but news that Kris Norris would be featured on the record, and mega producer Kurt Ballou was running the show was enough to get me on board. Considering all the recent failure however, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora
would need to seriously deliver the goods to function as a satisfying comeback record, and for the most part it does.
The first time the blistering opener “Knife in the Safe Room” graced my ears I did a double take. “What is this balls-to-the-wall, riff heavy hardcore track that I’m hearing" John Henry sounded so lifeless on the last record, how could this vicious beast on the mic be the same guy, this couldn’t possibly be post self-titled Darkest Hour.” I honestly triple checked to make sure I was listening to the right album. I think the pleasant confusion I felt is the best thing Godless Prophets
has going for it - it has identity, something the band has been lacking for years. And it isn’t simply a retread of Undoing Ruin,
or Deliver Us,
it’s an honest to God effective comeback record that doesn’t rely exclusively on nostalgia. Not to say that the flares and flourishes of Darkest Hour past aren’t present - the rapid fire melodeath riffs and trems are still lurking around, they’re just framed by an unusually aggressive hardcore sound. John Henry’s screams are as blood curdling as ever, and a few of the heavier tracks sound shockingly similar to Kurt Ballou’s own band Converge. And most importantly the guitar solos are technical, catchy, and dynamic - back to near Deliver Us
levels of quality. A complement to intense, dissonant riffs are the clean guitar interlude in “None of This is The Truth”, and the acoustic “Widowed” which are bizarrely soothing, and very much signature Darkest Hour. Godless Prophets
has a new take, but it’s also able to retain the elements that previously made Darkest Hour great. With all that being said, while the aggressive nature of the record is appealing, Godless Prophets
still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of being catchy and memorable.
The major fault with Godless Prophets
is that while fresh for a band coming out of a career low, it’s really nothing special within the context of a metalcore album coming out in 2017. The blistering first two tracks and the tasty, riff filled epic closer “Beneath It Sleeps” are exceptional, but a large chunk of the rest of the record is samey, the songs tend to bleed together, and most of the riffs are serviceable, but not exemplary. John Henry gives his best vocal performance to date, and the tight production and overall presentation save the record from being average, but in all honesty, Godless Prophets
is just good enough to not be disappointing. It’s not one of a kind, but it’s enjoyable - it’s the most Darkest Hour are capable of at this point. These aren’t the kind of riffs and melodies that will imprint onto my brain the way almost every song from Undoing Ruin
or Deliver Us
did, but Darkest Hour get a gold star for effort for delivering a strong metalcore record, and more importantly, for pulling off an immensely difficult comeback.